York prof’s exhibit explores life, work of social justice advocate

Cover of "Take Me, Take Me," a novella by Colin Robinson, edited by Andil Gosine

York University Professor Andil Gosine has curated a new exhibit called The Plural of He, exploring the life and work of the late Colin Robinson (1961-2021), a Trinidadian American poet and social justice advocate. It launches March 15 and will run until July 21 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York City, the world’s only dedicated 2SLGBTQIA+ art museum.

Andil Gosine
Andil Gosine

Gosine, whose academic focus is environmental arts and justice, recently told Trinidad and Tobago Newsday that although he had a professional relationship with Robinson that included consulting on various projects, he was surprised to learn he had been named the literary executor and custodian of Robinson’s archives. Before Robinson died, the pair discussed the idea of an exhibition inspired by the artist’s life’s work, and Robinson expressed enthusiastic support of it.

Titled after one of Robinson’s poems, The Plural of He features five newly commissioned works in which the artists – Llanor Alleyne, Leasho Johnson, Ada M. Patterson, Devan Shimoyama and York University doctoral student Natalie Wood – drew inspiration from materials encountered in Robinson’s archives: activist ephemera, carnival costumes and calypso music, letters, an unfinished novel, newspaper columns and poetry. Through their explorations of Robinson’s work, the artists discovered continuity between their lives and his, echoing and extending his pursuit of connection, community and justice.

“Because community building was so important to Colin,” Gosine explains, “I wanted connection itself to be the pulse of the exhibition: what resonated with me as I went through the archives? What resonances could I find between the artists and Colin in our conversations about the project? What resonances with the materials did the artists feel in their encounters with the archival materials?”

An undocumented migrant in the U.S. throughout the 1980s and 90s, Robinson became a powerful force in New York City’s queer, HIV/AIDS and feminist movements. He co-founded the historic New York State Black Gay Network and the Audre Lorde Project, and was director of HIV prevention at non-profit organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He was also a member of Other Countries, a literary collective for Black, gay men, and he published provocative essays in landmark anthologies, academic journals and newspapers.

Porky was loud by Devan Shimoyama.

His work continued when he returned to the Caribbean in 2006; there, he co-founded the critically important 2SLGBTQIA+ organization CAISO (Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation) and served as its “director of imagination.” A collection of Robinson’s poetry, You Have You Father Hard Head, was published in 2016, five years prior to his untimely passing in 2021.

Lauded as a godfather of the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement by many fellow activists, Robinson can be remembered by his writing, which he considered a form of activist performance. Each of the exhibit’s commissioned works engages a specific part of his archives to reveal different dimensions of his person.

“I want audiences for The Plural of He to encounter Colin in the fullness of his humanity,” says Gosine, whose book Nature’s Wild: Love, Sex and Law in the Caribbean details Robinson’s work. “When we get to know someone, we are privy to pieces of them, usually in non-linear fashion. We might learn about a hobby, their state of mind, their sense of humour. I want the experience of walking through this space to mirror the experience of getting to know a new friend.”

With this goal in mind, each new artwork in the exhibition is accompanied by short essays in which key figures in Robinson’s world reminisce about their connections with him in various contexts, from editing his weekly newspaper columns to dealing with heartbreak.

Public programming for The Plural of He will include readings of Robinson’s poetry and publications connected to the show. A limited release of a newly published novella rescued from Robinson’s archives – Take Me, Take Me, edited by Gosine, with cover art by Shimoyama – will be available for purchase, as will a catalog featuring each artist in dialogue with a major contemporary Caribbean writer.

For York University community members interested in the exhibit, York’s EcoArts initiative and the Centre for Research on Latin America & the Caribbean are co-hosting a local event on March 20 at 12:30 p.m. called The Plural of He: From Archives to Art, featuring Gosine and Wood in conversation and readings from Take Me, Take Me. The event will take place on the eighth floor of Kaneff Tower on York’s Keele Campus.

For more information about the exhibit, visit the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art’s website.

York graduate students explore motherhood

child holding onto mother's skirt

In the midst of ongoing debates surrounding reproductive rights, five York University graduate students had work published in the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative that looks to re-evaluate conventional notions of motherhood beyond essentialist and biological frameworks.

The students’ essays have been published in the Winter/Spring 2024 issue of the journal, which was founded and edited by Andrea O’Reilly, a professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies at York. The biannual, peer-reviewed scholarly journal is dedicated to advancing the discourse on motherhood from a global and interdisciplinary standpoint, offering a diverse array of scholarly insights into the multifaceted concept of motherhood.

Andrea O'Reilly
Andrea O’Reilly

“The defining mission of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative,” O’Reilly writes in her introductory notes, “is to promote and disseminate the best current scholarship on motherhood, and to ensure that this scholarship considers motherhood both in an international context and from a multitude of perspectives, including differences of class, race, sexuality, age, ethnicity, ability, and nationality, and from across a diversity of disciplines.”

With ongoing support from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, the journal continues to serve as an important platform for advancing an understanding of motherhood.

The five essays – among a total of 11 in this issue – written by York graduate students build on that tradition.

Thea Jones, a PhD student in the Graduate Program in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies, critically examines the impact of breastfeeding mandates on breastless parents who have undergone mastectomies in her essay. Jones challenges normative motherhood discourses and highlights the exclusion of non-conforming parenting bodies from mainstream narratives.

In her essay, Ame Khin May-Kyawt, a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Social & Political Thought, explores the experiences of socially displaced refugee women/mothers from Southeast Asia to Canada. Through an intersectional lens, May-Kyawt sheds light on how these women navigate their gender norms and identities while fulfilling multiple roles.

Katrina Millan, another PhD student, presents a compelling analysis of post-apocalyptic narratives in her article “Only Mom Can Save the World.” Millan advocates for a queer futurism that challenges heteronormative mandates and offers alternative visions of human futurity.

Winter/Spring 2024 Issue of Journal of the Motherhood Initiative
Winter/Spring 2024 Issue of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative

Tina Powell, a PhD student in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies, addresses the marginalization of mothers in feminist scholarship and economics. Powell calls for an intersectional approach to understanding motherhood, one that acknowledges and addresses the unique challenges faced by mothers in contemporary society.

Sofia Ahmed, a PhD student specializing in feminist and gender studies, delves into the complexities of Muslim motherhood. Ahmed invites readers to explore the myths, challenges and spiritual insights of motherhood through the lens of Islam, celebrating the empowerment and resilience of Muslim mothers in navigating societal constructs.

The students’ contributions not only aim to enrich the scholarly discourse on motherhood, but also underscore the journal’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and representation within motherhood studies, a comparatively new field of academic study that O’Reilly, who has authored and edited more than 20 books devoted to motherhood, has spearheaded.

“I think that good scholarship of motherhood matters,” O’Reilly once told an interviewer. “But for me it matters more when we can use that scholarship in a way to effect societal cultural change.”

Study highlights experiences, identities of refugee and migrant drag artists

A member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community holding a fan with the pride rainbow

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

A study by Paulie McDermid, an incoming research Fellow in refugee reception at York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, looks to advance knowledge of drag artists with refugee or migrant backgrounds and provide greater understanding on how they shape their identities and sense of belonging as they navigate making livable futures for themselves and others in Canada.

Not long after McDermid moved to Canada from Ireland in 2008, he volunteered with a settlement organization supporting migrants and refugees. As someone who identifies as queer and a migrant, he felt invested in helping those with shared experiences. He asked the organization what efforts were being made for those groups. “We don’t have any of those here,” he was told.

“I thought, ‘That can’t be the case,’” McDermid recalls. “It stuck with me.”

A decade later, that memory – that lack of understanding, and even awareness, of an entire group of people – proved to be a point of inspiration for his recent doctoral research study titled “Drag Across Borders: Negotiating 2SLGBTQ+ Being and Belonging Through Drag Personas.” Supervised by Canada Research Chair in Citizenship, Social Justice and Ethno-Racialization Chris Kyriakides, the paper explores intersectional identities and experiences of belonging among 2SLGBTQIA+ drag artists with a refugee or other migrant background.

McDermid's alter ego, Philomena Flynn-Flawn. (Photo credit: Brian Damude).
McDermid’s alter ego, Philomena Flynn-Flawn. (Photo credit: Brian Damude.)

McDermid notes that drag performers, like refugees and migrants, push against borders; they engage in actively cultivating a sense of who they are – in their drag personas and selves as “the newly arrived” – along with a sense of community. McDermid sought to learn more about how they do so. “I was interested in asking people about the relationship between the persona that they invent and the person they are,” says McDermid.

He sought to answer questions such as, “What meanings do drag personas hold for the identities of refugees and other migrants?” and, “In what ways, as refugee or migrants, do they create a sense of belonging in their new home?”

McDermid interviewed 19 drag performers from 16 different countries, now living across Canada, and discovered some common threads among the rich diversity of their lived experiences.

The study, overall, highlighted how these refugee and migrant drag artists make careful selections from their history and experiences to create their drag personas, weaving together gender, ethnicity, race, culture, sexuality, as well as “given” and “chosen” family.

McDermid found that families had significant influences on their drag persona and sense of self, countering what McDermid calls the common “western queer narrative” where given family is framed as a source of potential rejection. Instead, says McDermid, “even in families where some form of rejection was experienced, for the people I interviewed, family was positioned as a really profound resource that helped them secure their sense of belonging.” The drag personas they then created would draw upon family, sometimes memories of family, from their countries of origin, to inform their drag personas in Canada and facilitate who they are in the present.

McDermid’s study also found that participants exhibited notable agency in creating a sense of belonging – typically through the choices they make in cultivating relationships and community. “The drag artists constantly emphasized what they were doing socially and relationally for the communities in which they find themselves and that they’ve created,” McDermid says. For example, one Latinx drag artist who participated in the study created groups for Latinx queer people, Latinx refugees and Latinx HIV-positive individuals. “She was creating community that reflected the elements of her self that she had invested in her drag persona,” he says.

McDermid hopes those two findings – among others in the study – help counter narratives that strip drag performers, and especially refugees or migrants, of agency. For example, he notes how refugees can often be positioned by western countries as “objects” of rescue. Instead, McDermid’s study highlights how these artists push back against a range of anti-migrant and anti-trans/queer forces that seek to exclude and dehumanize them. He adds that refugee/migrant drag artists are also active shapers of their world in ways that are reflective of their art too.

“Drag performance is different from an actor being given a script to follow. Drag artists are the authors of their own script. They decide what they want to do. Theirs is a ‘total’ art of self-presentation,” he says.

Most of all, McDermid hopes his study can build on and reshape knowledge about those who make up this cross-section of identities. Moving forward, he is looking to do that by sharing his work in as many different venues as possible. He’s already partnered with the Centre for Refugee Studies and the Positive Spaces Initiative of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants to share findings from the study.

He’s also pursuing workshops, such as one earlier this year funded by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation for York students and wider community members, which took place at The 519 community centre on Church Street in Toronto. It featured two drag artist participants in the study performing and speaking about what their drag personas mean to them as people with refugee/migrant backgrounds.

Whatever the outcome of his work is, however, what he is most proud of is having been trusted with the lived experiences of those he spoke to: “I felt humbled by the confidence they placed me in sharing those stories. The study is theirs. I’ve intervened in order to bring it together but, ultimately, it’s their stories.”

Bisexual women at greater risk for substance-use events

emergency room sign

New research out of York University shows that bisexual women face a higher risk of substance-related acute events than other sexual orientations and genders.

Disparities in alcohol- and substance-related hospitalizations and deaths across sexual orientations in Canada: a longitudinal study” uses Ontario health administrative data from 2009 to 2017 to quantify hospitalizations and deaths (acute events) related to alcohol, cannabis, opioids, narcotics, and illicit drugs across different sexual orientations and genders.

Authored by Gabriel John Dusing, Chungah Kim and Antony Chum of York University, along with Andrew Nielson of the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the study indicates that bisexual women faced 2.46 times higher risks of substance-related acute events compared to heterosexual women. For non-alcohol substance-related acute events, the risk was 2.67 times higher than it was for heterosexual women.

While substance-related acute events for heterosexual men and women were found to be 29 and 16 cases per 100,000 persons per year, this increased to 33 and 34 for gay men and lesbians, and up to 99 and 55 for bisexual men and women respectively.

However, after adjusting for sociodemographic differences, only bisexual women had a significantly higher risk compared to their heterosexual counterparts. The differences between heterosexual and bisexual men (or between heterosexual women and lesbians), could be explained by other factors such as income and education.

The paper continues to suggest that bisexual women’s elevated substance use may be associated with self-medication in response to unique stressors related to discrimination and isolation.

“The findings emphasize the need for enhanced education and training for health-care professionals to address the heightened substance use risk among lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals,” said Chum. “More funding and research is needed for targeted interventions focused on reducing substance use problems among bisexual individuals.”

By combining data from a population-representative survey and health administrative data, the study offers a unique contribution to research literature by sharing the first robust evidence of disparities in substance-use acute events across sexual orientations. It calls for “further evaluation of the effectiveness of tailored prevention and treatment programs, support groups, or public health campaigns designed to reach bisexual women and gay/bisexual men.”

York University marks 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence 


The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education at York, along with partners across the University, will offer a series of events to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, an annual international campaign that begins on Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and goes until Dec. 10, Human Rights Day. 

Started in 1991 as a global effort to recognize and speak out against gender-based violence, the 16 Days campaign aims to renew commitment to end violence against women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals. 

The Centre has organized a variety of events to inspire and educate community members while honouring victims of gender-based violence as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals from all walks of life who experience and have lost their lives to violence. 

Human Rights Day honours the date the United Nations General Assembly’s adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948. This document sets out fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It is a milestone in the history of human rights, and has been translated in over 500 languages, holding the Guinness World Record as the most translated document. 

In Canada, we also observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women during the 16 Days to remember the women who were murdered during the tragic mass shooting at Polytechnique Montréal on Dec. 6, 1989. 

The Centre at York University works to foster a culture where attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate sexual violence are rejected, survivors are supported, community members are educated and those who commit incidents of sexual violence are held accountable. It offers supports and services, training and events to educate and help University community members. 

All community members are invited to attend the events listed below. Learn more at thecentre.yorku.ca/global-16-days-campaign.  

YU Athlete’s Memorial Pin-making Event – in partnership with Athletics & Recreation 

Date: Nov. 27
Time: noon to 2 p.m.
Location: 305 York Lanes 

Join YU athletes as they create white ribbons (a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls) and purple ribbons (attempts to educate the public that violence against women and children is not culturally acceptable) for the York community throughout the duration of the week. 

Supporting Your Queer Child 

Date: Nov. 28
Time: noon to 1p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email thecentre@yorku.ca

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Toronto Public Health hosts a session that facilitates discussions among participants about how parents/caregivers can foster healthy attitudes about sexuality with their children and support their needs. Registrants are asked to submit questions and topics they are interested in learning more about for this session when they register. 

Healthy Relationships Workshop 

Date: Nov. 29
Time: 1 to 2 p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email thecentre@yorku.ca

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Nellie’s hosts a workshop on healthy dating and relationships for those who identify as women in university to learn about what healthy relationships look like, how to identify red flags in a relationship and what to do if they need support. The workshops will be interactive and allow students to learn and understand the topics in a trauma-informed environment. 

Raising Sexually Healthy Tweens 

Date: Nov. 30
Time: noon to 1 p.m. 
Format: online
Registration: email thecentre@yorku.ca

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education in partnership with Toronto Public Health hosts a workshop with the goal of providing parents/caregivers with the tools, knowledge and support they need to foster healthy attitudes about sexuality with their tweens. 

Issues and Impacts of Misogynoir 

Date: Nov. 30
Time: 1 to 2:30 p.m.
Format: online
Registration: email thecentre@yorku.ca

The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion in partnership with the Centre for Sexual Violence, Response, Support & Education hosts an interactive session where participants discuss the issue of misogynoir, which shows how sexism and racism manifest in Black women’s lives to create intersecting forms of oppression. Participants explore the detrimental impacts of internalized racism as well as engage in a discussion about healing and self-care. 

York University reaffirms support for trans community on Trans Day of Remembrance

Transgender flag waving against blue sky,

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

In 2017, the Ontario government passed the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in acknowledgement that trans people in Ontario face not only indifference, prejudice and hatred, but also anti-trans violence. It joined other jurisdictions in naming Nov. 20 as a day to remember those murdered, to recognize the pervasive problem of crimes against trans people and to remind ourselves of the diversity and resilience of the trans community. The goal of a civil society is to ensure the dignity of all people, and as we take a moment to remember and mourn the losses, it is also important to enhance our understanding.

During the development of the 2022 Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan, a survey revealed that transgender and Two-Spirit respondents were most likely to report discrimination in terms of employment and other forms of harassment that, for example, resulted in unstable housing. Transgender men reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction, and friendship was identified by many as an important source of comfort in their lives.

The work of reducing barriers and creating inclusive and welcoming communities and institutions belongs to us all. As stated in the York University Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy, “Creating a sense of inclusion and belonging requires supportive structures and social spaces where diverse perspectives are heard, acknowledged and respected … Achieving an inclusive and equitable community is not a destination, but rather a journey that requires ongoing attention and action. Organizational change must be informed by the foundational and ongoing work to advance DEDI through research, curriculum, teaching, service and programming.”

York University reaffirms its support for trans students, staff, faculty, instructors and alumni, and continues to denounce transphobic discrimination and violence everywhere.

The Centre for Human Rights, Equity & Inclusion has identified and developed a number of resources for the community, including a guide on gender expression and gender identity, available here.

The SexGen Committee will mark Nov. 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. with Rest, Regenerate, Resist, a space where the trans community can mourn, engage with community and refill our cups so we can keep resisting transphobia. Quiet time will be provided to remember those we have lost to anti-trans violence. There will be workshop stations such button making, art, bracelet making, LEGO building and beanbag chairs. A counsellor from Student Counselling, Health & Well-being will be on site to provide support to members of the community. Marshalls will be present to ensure folks in the room are safe. It will be held in the Serenity Room in the Second Student Centre. Light refreshments will be available.

Let us continue the journey together of making York a safer space where everyone has the opportunity to feel like they belong.

Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

L’Université York réitère son soutien à la communauté transgenre à l’occasion de la Journée du souvenir trans

En 2017, le gouvernement de l’Ontario a adopté la Loi sur la Journée du souvenir trans[ALG1]  en reconnaissance du fait que les personnes transgenres en Ontario sont confrontées non seulement à l’indifférence, aux préjugés et à la haine, mais aussi à la violence. Elle s’est jointe à d’autres instances pour faire du 20 novembre une journée de commémoration des personnes assassinées, pour reconnaître le problème omniprésent des crimes contre les personnes transgenres et pour nous rappeler la diversité et la résilience de la communauté transgenre. L’objectif d’une société civile est de garantir la dignité de toutes les personnes. Alors que nous prenons un moment pour nous remémorer et déplorer les vies perdues, il est également important de mieux comprendre la situation.

Lors de l’élaboration du Plan d’action fédéral 2ELGBTQI+ 2022, une enquête a révélé que les répondants transgenres et bispirituels étaient les plus susceptibles de signaler des discriminations en matière d’emploi et d’autres formes de harcèlement qui, par exemple, entraînaient une instabilité du logement. Les hommes transgenres ont déclaré les niveaux les plus bas de satisfaction dans la vie, et beaucoup d’entre eux ont dit que l’amitié était une grande source de réconfort.

La réduction des barrières et la création de communautés et d’institutions inclusives et accueillantes incombent à tout le monde. Comme indiqué dans la Stratégie DEDI de l’Université York, « Pour créer un sentiment d’inclusion et d’appartenance, il faut des structures de soutien et des espaces sociaux où les diverses perspectives sont entendues, reconnues et respectées (…). L’atteinte d’une communauté inclusive et équitable n’est pas une destination, mais plutôt un parcours qui nécessite une attention et une action continues. Le changement organisationnel doit être étayé par un travail fondamental et continu pour faire avancer la DEDI au moyen de la recherche, des programmes d’études, de l’enseignement, du service et de la programmation. »

L’Université York réaffirme son soutien aux membres de la communauté étudiante, du personnel, des corps professoral et enseignant et aux diplômés et diplômées transgenres, et continue de dénoncer la discrimination et la violence transphobes partout dans le monde.

Le Centre des droits de la personne, de l’équité et de l’inclusion a défini et développé un certain nombre de ressources pour la communauté, notamment un guide sur l’expression et l’identité de genre, disponible ici (en anglais).

Le comité SexGen se réunira le 20 novembre de 13 h à 16 h avec Se reposer, se régénérer, résister, un espace où la communauté transgenre peut faire son deuil, s’engager avec la collectivité et se ressourcer pour continuer à résister à la transphobie. Un moment de silence sera prévu pour se souvenir de ceux et celles que nous avons perdus à cause de la violence anti-trans. Il y aura des ateliers d’art, de fabrication de boutons et de bracelets, de construction avec des briques LEGO et des fauteuils poires confortables. Des personnes-conseils des Services de santé, de counseling et de bien-être étudiant (SCHW) seront sur place pour apporter leur soutien aux membres de la communauté. Des agents assureront la sécurité des personnes sur les lieux. L’événement aura lieu dans la salle Serenity au Second Student Centre. Des rafraîchissements seront servis.

Faisons ensemble de York un espace plus sûr, où chaque personne a le sentiment d’être à sa place.

Merci. Thank you. Miigwech.

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

LA&PS writer-in-residence hosts award-winning filmmaker Deepa Mehta


The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and the Department of English invite the York University community to an evening with Writer-in-Residence Shyam Selvadurai and internationally revered filmmaker Deepa Mehta.

Shyam Selvadurai
Shyam Selvadurai

On Dec. 7, Selvadurai will host Mehta for a screening and discussion of her latest collaboration, the documentary film I Am Sirat. The film follows Sirat Taneja, a trans woman in India, as she navigates living a dual life.

In 2020, Mehta collaborated with Selvadurai, adapting his bestselling book Funny Boy into a feature film. The two won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Deepa Mehta

Mehta holds an honorary degree from York University and is widely recognized for her daring films that push industry and cultural boundaries. She has been at the forefront of numerous television series and has directed and produced many critically acclaimed documentaries and feature films, like her celebrated Elements Trilogy: Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005).

She has received both a Genie Award and an Oscar nomination. In 2012, she received Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

Selvadurai is the author of Funny BoyCinnamon GardensSwimming in the Monsoon Sea and The Hungry Ghosts. His work has won the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Lambda Literary Award and the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award, and has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. He is also the editor of Story-Wallah: A Celebration of South Asian Fiction and a comprehensive anthology of Sri Lankan literature called Many Roads Through Paradise.

The Writer-in-Residence Program connects faculty, staff and students with a professional writer for feedback, critiques and support. Four meetings per week are available by appointment through Calendly

The event occurs at the Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan Theatre at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. Registration is now open.

Research-informed website aims to support sexual and gender-diverse communities

Hand reaching out for help

A new research website launched by a multidisciplinary team led by York University Professor Kinnon MacKinnon aims to provide resources, support and data-driven information about gender detransition/retransition.

The website Detrans Support was informed by learnings from two research studies funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) that explore detransition/retransition, along with ongoing consultations with transgender and gender-diverse, detransitioned people and their care providers.

Kinnon MacKinnon
Kinnon MacKinnon

The two studies – “The Re/DeTrans Canada Study” led by MacKinnon of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and “The Detrans Discourses Study” led by Professor Annie Pullen Sansfaçon of the Université de Montréal – were designed to qualitatively explore experiences of detransition/retransition.

Understanding identity evolution and identity fluidity is really important to ensure that gender care services are comprehensive and responsive to all gender-diverse populations such as non-binary, gender-fluid, two-spirit and detrans – whose specific needs may be neglected by prevailing ideas about gender medicine,” says MacKinnon. “The process of developing content for this website was explorative, multi-staged and involved significant stakeholder engagement.”

In November 2022, MacKinnon and colleagues held a Detransition Symposium and community event at York University to discuss and share results from the two research studies with those who identify with experiences relating to transitioning and/or detransitioning, along with their friends and families, gender care providers, and 2SLGBTQ+ program developers and educators.

Though MacKinnon acknowledges the website’s content may not reflect the full range of life journeys and perspectives of all 2SLGBTQ+ communities, it was iteratively produced by analyzing feedback and discussion notes collected at the symposium. Conversations with an advisory committee and feedback from several detransitioners, as well as a parent, also helped to inform the development of the website.

Designed to educate the public, support those who are exploring detransition, and provide resources for family, care providers and others, the website will evolve with continuing research. MacKinnon and team were recently awarded an Insight Grant from SSHRC to continue to build data-driven knowledge about pathways to detransition, identity evolution, gender minority stressors and unmet care needs among this population.

“We hope that the website will help to provide empirically driven information and guide conversations about this often misunderstood experience. To do this, it centres a diversity of voices and perspectives and includes resources for care providers working with gender-diverse people and for people who are detransitioning,” says MacKinnon. “We also hope the website will help to inform the future development of formal social supports because shifts in identity and gender expression following gender-related medical care is a phenomenon that is being seen more frequently in broader society, yet there remains stigma and unmet care needs around this experience.”

In June 2023, MacKinnon and colleagues published a paper in The BMJ outlining how research and care services have overlooked people who detransition, specifically those who discontinue or reverse gender care treatment, and how unmet physical and mental health-care needs and stigma are commonly reported among this population.

In this paper, MacKinnon also identifies how short-term studies into transitioning may have unintentionally excluded and erased detransition and identity shifts and calls for more robust research to inform the development of comprehensive knowledge, practice guidelines, and care services inclusive of detransition/retransition and gender-diverse identity evolution.

To learn more about the Detrans Support website and the team behind it, visit the About page.

Fall Convocation brings positive change for York graduands

File photo Convocation students

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, editor, YFile

A new cohort of York University graduands will cross the stage to earn their diplomas during one of seven ceremonies, running Oct. 11 to 20 at Sobeys Stadium on the Keele Campus.

The Fall Convocation events will incorporate changes to align with the University’s values, including updates to policy on regalia, the music performed during the ceremonies, a spotlight on alumni and more.

In August 2022, a working group led by York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton was formed to explore updates to convocation. These changes aim to enhance the integration of decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion principles, show respect for Indigenous knowledge and traditions, create a student-centred celebration, as well as align with the University’s commitment to sustainability and create a student-centred celebration.

Changes implemented during Spring Convocation will continue, with students, faculty and guests who identify as First Nations, Métis or Inuit welcome to wear traditional ceremonial dress of their culture. While wearing ceremonial dress has always been welcome, York has incorporated this into their communications to replace outdated messaging that states only academic regalia may be worn.

Other changes to look for include student performers, who will perform during the academic procession as well as before and after the ceremony. At the ceremony’s conclusion, graduates will recess to a song they chose by popular vote. As well, the national anthem will be played after a land acknowledgment and, where relevant, following an Honour Song.

To shine a light on previous graduates, an alumni speaker will take the stage during each ceremony to deliver a welcome message to graduands and their guests.

For a complete list of ceremonies during the Fall 2023 Convocation, visit the Ceremonies web page. For all other information, visit the Convocation website.

Look for a story in an upcoming issue of YFile announcing the honorary degree recipients.

Standing with our community

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear community,

Today (Sept. 20) a series of anti-trans and anti-2SLGBTQIA+ demonstrations is taking place across the country. York University is a champion of equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice, and these actions demonstrate clear opposition to these values. I want to extend my support to the many people in our community who will be negatively affected by these activities. 

York University stands with the country’s queer community during these hateful protests. The University’s Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is a key signal of how the University is working to continue creating safe and welcoming spaces for all members of our community and the importance of advancing these priorities.

Many of you may need additional support today. There are supports available; information can be found at yorku.ca/well-being/resources.

Take care and stay well,

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

Aux côtés de notre communauté

Chers membres de la communauté,

Une série de manifestations contre les personnes trans et 2ELGBTQIA+ a lieu aujourd’hui dans le pays tout entier. L’Université York se fait la championne de l’équité, de la diversité, de l’inclusion et de la justice sociale, et ces activités s’opposent clairement à ces valeurs.  Je souhaite apporter mon soutien aux nombreuses personnes de notre communauté qui seront affectées par ces manifestations. 

L’Université York soutient la communauté queer canadienne lors de ces manifestations haineuses. La Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion illustre la volonté de l’Université de continuer à créer des espaces sécuritaires et accueillants pour tous les membres de sa communauté, et souligne l’importance de faire progresser ces priorités.

Plusieurs d’entre vous auront peut-être besoin de plus de soutien aujourd’hui. Des ressources et des informations sont disponibles sur le site yorku.ca/well-being/resources.

Prenez soin de vous et restez en bonne santé,

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture